How can we hear God with no margin in our lives? If we are so busy that we are hurrying from one activity to the next, multi-tasking all the while, where is the down time where we mull over what God is teaching us? The busy junk that takes up our time crowds out the most important priorities, which are down time with God, down time with our spouses, and down time with our kids, when we can talk about things that matter and do things that energize us.
This summer I read a book I had been meaning to read for years--Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard A. Swenson, M.D.The medical doctor who wrote the book took a year “off” to go to Africa, where he performed over 500 surgeries. For some strange reason, he felt rested and like he was on vacation. That's because people in rural places in third world countries have something that we lack: margin. They sit beside the street and watch the sunset and talk to a neighbor in an unhurried way. There is no stress. Sure, people don't have enough to eat, but at least they have deep relationships with other people and have lots of leisure time.
When the author of the book returned to the United States, he once again re-entered the hurried, stress-filled world of high pressure. He decided to cut back to part time as a doctor so that he could actually live a real life instead of working continuously until he plopped into bed every night. He and his wife decided to live on a smaller income on purpose so that they could breathe.
Every so often we must ask ourselves what is crowding our lives. Being without a plan is one reason that people never get around to doing what they really intend to do. Without a plan, the day fills itself up automatically, and often nothing of value is accomplished. What else squanders time?
Constantly checking e-mail or Facebook.
Not dealing with conflicts between children at the beginning. Letting the conflict escalate and not dealing with heart issues. (You can do this right by throwing yourself upon God, asking for wisdom, and taking whatever time it takes to do it right, releasing the other items on your agenda as not as important. God will always come through and give you help if you throw yourself upon Him for real, wanting His wisdom and not your own. James 1:5)
Not deciding ahead of time what you will do first, to make sure it gets done in your day.
Kids' activities, maybe too many. Ask God before signing the kids up for sports, instruments, or other lessons. Only God knows if the child needs it, or if relaxing down time is of higher value.
Doing our chores in a haphazard manner so that they take up our whole day instead of just running in the background on auto-pilot because of good habits that have been established.
Spending time on the phone during the day that is not related to a home business or an emergency. If you call back anybody near the end of the day when you are fatigued rather than during your productive time, the phone call will energize you instead of stealing the time you should have spent with the Lord or doing what you know you ought to be doing.
These are just a few things I thought of off the top of my head that might flush our time down the toilet. We are accountable before God for the time He has given us. Why is it so crowded? Let's start by crossing off everything that doesn't matter and begin again with more space on our calendar.
(Stay tuned for Part 2, where I discuss the equation: Power minus load equals margin...)